Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Need vs Want pt 2

As a PS to my previous post, ... at first it was interesting to look around the shops here, to see old familiar products and foods that we used to get, to see what was new. But I also found it overwhelming as there are just so many more shops and people and choices here. I did start going to old favourite discount stores but then I couldn't wait to get out. The thrift stores here used to be a good place to get a bargain and I can't believe how much their prices have gone up. When I'm in Australia, I tend to shop more consciously. I was definitely more of a random consumer when I lived here before. I think I justified that with things like "it was such a bargain" or thinking that "I might use it someday" and of course when the kids came along, yard sales were heaven for bringing out my own inner child and buying toys and things that 'I' wanted to play with. I'm grateful for that experience, and I'm grateful for realising that living a life with less material stuff actually makes my life feel fuller and richer.

Moving on...

A couple of weeks ago I had a moment when it hit me that I'm getting older. Cary held me and gently said "we are getting older...let's do it gracefully". His words reminded me to accept this stage, this time, this moment. In acceptance of this fact, I can be more gentle with myself, more content with myself and perhaps from that will flow grace towards all areas of my life. It does not mean I'm going to sit back in the rocker and watch the parade of life, but I will continue to seek adventures and find joy with a deeper appreciation for those things.

My current goal is improving my health and fitness which have declined a bit since we moved back into a house and got less active. Most days I've been using the fitness room here, and doing some yoga and swimming. I've also been drinking green smoothies again thanks to Cary for buying me a new Vita-Mix 5200!

I bought a used Vita-Mix years ago which has had a ton of use. It is my favourite kitchen 'thing'. Cooking doesn't thrill me (gee, if it did, I probably would have bought a bunch of those knives at that yard sale I wrote about in the previous post, and I would have known that they were good quality). I like simple food with not a whole lot of variety. My favourite type of food has always been fruit and I love the way the vita-mix makes smooth smoothies out of whole fruit in just a few seconds. I also use it to make batters for waffles, salad dressings, fresh pasta sauce and soups. I have the extra container on my old machine, which will also work on the new one, that is for 'dry' needs such as grinding flour. It's pretty much the only gadget I need in the kitchen. (Except for maybe one plain old sharp knife.)

So was the V-M purchase satisfying a need or a want? Maybe both. I want to spend less time in the kitchen. I want to find ways for the whole family to enjoy eating more whole foods. I need help in that department! I need to improve my own health and I want to enjoy the process. I know I mentioned the green smoothies which are such an easy way to pack in natural vitamins and minerals. My current favourite recipe is: 2 cups water, large handful of organic baby spinach, 3 bananas and 1/2 cup each of frozen pineapple and mango. After working up a sweat on the treadmill, this drink has me feeling revived and ready for the rest of the day.

So maybe the 'need vs want' justification can be transcended when a purchase is primarily an investment, especially in our own health - in this case mental and physical.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Need vs Want

Happy solstice!

Right on cue, Vegas has turned on the summer heat. I really don't feel like doing much at all. When we lived here before, if I wanted to get out of the house during the summer, we either went to the water park, the pool, visiting friends, or shopping. (Shopping was probably a year-round thing actually.) The shops are always air-conditioned and the toy section provided some different things for the kids to play with. Now though, I find myself not liking shopping. "Mum, come here, let me show you this..." x 3, plus "oh, this is cool, can I have this..?" x 3, leaves me feeling drained and the kids a bit resentful at the stream of "no"'s. The stuff they are asking for is stuff that I honestly think they would not use for long. But a surprise trip to the game store to buy a couple of new (used) games for their DS's is money well spent as they love those things! It's nice to say "yes" too.

We've been going to yard sales on Saturday mornings. The first week that we went we had fun. But the past two weeks, with the extra heat, I just haven't been into it. I don't feel like driving for miles chasing signs, hunting through someone else's "stuff" for a potential bargain. For what? Is there anything I really NEED?
When we got here, we did need some extra summer clothes, shoes and some basic things for the kitchen. But now, we have most of that, and anything else is just creating extra 'stuff' in our lives.

The past two weeks when we've gone out yard saleing, we've been seeking to attract Lego, luggage and clothes (AJ and Summer could still use an extra couple of pairs of shorts each). We haven't had much luck with the clothes or the lego but I did find a nice carry-on bag - they asked $8, I offered them $5 which they took. When I got home, I found $2.20 in coin in the pockets so it only cost me $2.80. That was a good deal! I'm still looking for a large piece of luggage so I can distribute the weight a bit more with the other two bags we have when we go back.

Here's the thing that's been niggling at me....I know I've only been looking for a few things, but I've been finding other things that were not on my list. Like some kitchen knives. One sale I was at had a big box of knives. A couple of them looked like the type of knife I used to use in the kitchen when we lived here before - long and deep. In Australia, I have a couple of knives that are long but narrow. They do the job and then slip away into their container that sharpens them each time. Quite adequate, but I did like the other kind of knife. Here now, I have one sharp knife that is also adequate, but it's not the same as the other kind. So I stood looking at the box of knives, trying to figure out if I really needed another knife, or just wanted one. I had no idea if it was a good knife or not. I thought if I spent $2 on something like that, then it becomes easier to spend another $2 on something else I really don't need, and another and another and before long, I've blown $20 on extra 'stuff'.
So...I used my old rule "when in doubt - don't". So I didn't buy any knives. But I couldn't let go of it so I looked up online about them and it turns out that the knife I was looking at was worth about $40-50. So I guess it was a pretty good one.

So the part of me that loves a bargain is kicking myself for not getting the deal. But the part of me that likes to Simplify is saying "yay - less stuff to deal with". And I know now that it is that side of me that has grown the most in recent years. And that's probably why I no longer enjoy shopping. Coming here and facing those old conditioning's has been a good test.

I know it's normal for the kids to want a whole bunch of different things as they try things out to help them explore different sides of themselves, at different ages and stages. In some ways, I'd like to give them everything, but that's not practical. The two best things I can give them are my time and my attention. They are things that they need and want. And maybe with time, as they grow older, they'll understand the difference between needing and wanting when it comes to buying things and hopefully they'll become conscious consumers. Maybe it won't take them 40 something years to learn that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday!



AND NOW.....

Our little man turned 4 last week. He had been excited about this birthday for about 6 months. It's the first birthday when he's really aware of the excitement of the celebration. His 3rd birthday was nice, but he didn't make a big deal about it like he did with this one. This time he counted down the months, then the weeks, then the days...telling everyone he met how many days were left. The day before his birthday we had spent with the Las Vegas Life Learners group at a park and had a lovely time. Nicholas's actual birthday was a fairly quiet family celebration of Nicholas. He loves Spongebob Squarepants and so we had several gifts for him with the yellow guy on them. A little bat, a big ball, pj's, colouring book, swim shorts and a few other little bits and pieces. He was thrilled! AJ and Summer had hidden his presents around our suite and Nicholas enjoyed the treasure hunt. He was a little upset that I had forgotten to pack the "birthday hat" that's in the photo above from his 2nd birthday. It's a family tradition to wear that hat on your b/day.

On the phone to Aunty Ros & family in Australia just before checking out the local farmers market. Nicholas loved the market because he got a free snow cone after telling the vendors there (and everywhere else) that is was his birthday!

Out to dinner at Claim Jumpers Restaurant. Birthday boy got a free chocolate muffin after telling them it was his birthday. He was so excited!

Nicholas thought his birthday kept going for days and didn't miss a beat when he found out that it was actually just the one day, but it comes around every year. So now his telling people "do you know I'm going to have another birthday soon and I'll be (holds up 5 fingers)!"

The countdown is on!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Las Vegas Life Learning

We are in Las Vegas!

Five days before we left Australia, we drove through some heavy rain to my Mum's place, needing to take a couple of detours off the highway along the way due to flooding. Finally got there, celebrated Mum's 70th birthday and tried to get home the next day. The rain had not let up though and the highway was cut in at least 5 places. Even the nearest highway across the mountains was cut. So we drove south to Maitland, and turned inland and headed north up the New England Hwy. Nicholas had a fever and wanted me so my brother-in-law drove for me for a while. We were all headed towards Tamworth and my sister's place anyway. The big detour meant that I could stop in and see my Dad and StepMum for a little visit which was wonderful. Caught up on some hugs. The next day we drove up to Tenterfield and across the Bruxner Hwy to Bangalow (so pretty) and rejoined the Pacific Hwy. When driving up the inland road it was dry and a little brown. Such a contrast to the flooded coast.

We had one day to do all of our final prep for the big trip which included a house inspection and a 2 hour trip to the dentist for Summer and AJ. Everything got done, but I didn't get much sleep before leaving home at 6:30am to get the maxi taxi to the train, the train to the airport, the big plane to LA. As we were descending into LA, we went through the white puffy clouds which slowly turned to grey as we moved into the smog that just didn't lift. The only one that had slept was Nicholas as he still wasn't feeling so great. Everything had gone smoothly and we cleared immigration and customs easily. Walking out of the terminal, we found that LA was noisy, dirty and very smelly. So many security checkpoints along the way. I tried to get some change so I could call Cary and the shopkeeper I went to was very rude. Welcome to America! We didn't have to wait too long for our flight to Vegas but arrived there totally wrecked. Wonderful to see Cary but we went straight to our room and fell straight into bed for 3 hours. Went our for some groceries and dinner and then slept for 10 hours. It took several days to catch up but we're all good now.

We've been here two weeks already. I've been overwhelmed by the noise and crowds and shops and smells. I resisted the whole experience here for a while, but being with Cary and catching up with friends has made it really good. Really good. The kids fitted right back in at our old homeschooling group and I've had an absolutely lovely time hanging out with my friends and making new friends.
I realised that I was being very judgemental and decided to let go of that and just enjoy this for what it is, while it lasts.

The thing I've learned from this whole thing is that I have limits and I think I've gotten a whole lot better about recognising when I'm approaching those. I thought I was doing well, but the trip to Mum's on top of the trip here on top of very little sleep was all too much. So when the noise and the smells and the crowds get too much for me or my kids, I'm not going to try and push them or me. It's ok to say no or "we've got to go". It's ok to take time out and not "do" anything in particular. Maintaining my balance is my priority. With that, everything else flows.